BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As the fentanyl crisis in the state continues to grow, one of the many bills filed this legislative session looks to increase the penalties for people who are running makeshift labs in their homes and spreading the drug.
SB49 by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who is also running for governor, has been widely supported on both sides of the aisle.
The bill increases the punishments for the first, second and third offenses of running a clandestine laboratory. Under the bill, the first offense is 10-40 years, 10 of those years are not allowed parole, probation or a suspension of sentence. It also makes the fine $50,000. The second offense is 30-40 years and a $500,000 fine. Third and subsequent offenses are 99 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The labs could include basic things like blenders, pill presses, and other tools to cut fentanyl and be sold under a different name. Some of the doses are proving to be fatal or people are unaware fentanyl has been put into the drug they are buying.
“It takes very little equipment and they’re taking fentanyl and cutting it, you know, so that it only takes a little bit of fentanyl and any of these prescription drugs to be deadly,” Hewitt said.
These labs are becoming more common as the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office is seeing. Since January of 2022, there have been over 340 fentanyl-related deaths in the parish.
“All of that fentanyl that they were using was recut or reprocessed here in Baton Rouge. When we receive fentanyl as a community from source cities, most times it’s processed in these home labs,” said EBRSO Capt. Tanner Jenkins.
Hewitt said as she tours the state for her campaign, fentanyl is an issue that impacts people everywhere she goes. She hopes this move will be successful as they saw with increasing the penalties around heroin in the state.
“I will have literally at least one person either stand up publicly in that meeting or maybe speak to me privately afterwards with tears running down their cheeks because they lost a son or granddaughter or a nephew or a neighbor that they were close to to fentanyl overdoses,” Hewitt said.
Other bills moving through the session are taking aim at dealers and other penalties. This bill just has one more stop on the House floor before it’s sent to the governor’s desk.